The world we live in is described to us by media. This seems obvious enough, but to what extent is it any way accurately represented? What do they choose to show us, and to not show us? How much do they shape our views of the world so we remain docile enough for the financial and political elites to advance their interests continually over ours, ever-tightening their grip on the planet? Perhaps this is the logic of a kook, but it does have a certain truth to it… a well-respected British sketch show called That Mitchell and Webb Look aired a sketch which implies that TV might be used in such a way, though – because it was broadcast on a mainstream network – could not openly imply that such realities were already in place:
It’s worth noting that finding the full version of this sketch isn’t easy: The first google results with the correct (obscure) keywords bring up an abridged version that completely cut off the dystopian twist. It might be that there’s an interest in deterring Americans from watching British TV shows, especially cutting-edge sketch shows (for its time in 2010), and especially their most rebelling-against-the-powerful sketch. It’s easy to find the ironic sketch of Robert Webb dancing in a banana suit on YouTube, but to find a critique of media telling us to relax while death robots kill resistance fighters is harder to come by.
But what does that have to do with us? We are not in a world of death robot-wielding overlords creating a dystopia for us to allow to overwhelm us while we settle into entertainment-induced docility. Right? Well…
Nick Dyer-Witheford, a professor at the University of Western Ontario, wrote an essay describing how our world is being taken over by a global, increasingly automated, financial-technological machine. It may seem outlandish, but his argument is well grounded and rather compelling. It even includes an explanation of UAV’s, America’s ‘Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles’: flying robots which scour the international warzone of the swaths of the greater Middle East, automatically scanning, searching for ‘enemy combatants’ – who I’ve learned through both scuttlebutt and news articles are often harmless civilians, often bringing a predator drone’s missile screaming to destroy them. As for fully automated death robots, there are a growing number of articles from reputable news sources. One is here.
One of the main manifestations of his theorized hyper-capitalist, or perhaps post-capitalist, view of our broken system is the control of what I would call a “technical proletariat”: young men of third world countries performing what was once only the sort of work that could be done by Western people (whether because of availability of education/training or geography), whether kept in their home countries or shipped to Western nations – as decided by the needs of their corporate masters. It is this new form of exploitation of relatively highly-skilled workers who are only given peasant wages for their labor that enables the massive profits corporations use to fuel their increasingly tightening hold on global empire.
Hari Kunzru gave an intimate look at this phenomenon with his character Arjun, a young man from India who is manipulated into exploitation by a major corporation, via a smaller corporation. Once he is in the US, he is trapped by his poverty and their refusal to do the humane thing and ship him home if he does not find a job (the meager pay for which they will take a cut of). This is a form of modern indentured servitude, and part of the massive exploitation our empire uses to fund itself. Arjun’s fate is better than that of garbage pickers and the slaves within our current slave trade (which is the biggest in human history, with a major hub in San Francisco).
Some people choose to opt out, shutting down, or going off grid. They largely make themselves irrelevant, doing little but not add their money to the system. Others choose to violently resist our empire, but for them there are troops, CIA agents, special forces, police, and death robots.
It’s a hard world, but the establishment does not want us to know that it is so; thus they feed us a constant stream of faux reality to keep us happily going about our business, serving in our roles as corporate cogs, keeping the exploitation/murder machine grinding away.